In Clara, the Early Years Margo Kaufman, a columnist and panelist on NPR's news-quiz show Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me, does tell the often hilarious story of her pug Clara and the havoc she wreaks with her owner's life. A pug owner since the age of 19, Kaufman knew that the small black pug named Clara was different from her previous dogs. She writes that before Clara, I was not a Pet Parent. The pugs were dogs. Cute dogs, willful dogs, lovable to be sure, but I was a Human. I was in charge. Then along came Clara, and all bets were off. Kaufman's legion and riotous tales illustrate the extent of Clara's prima donna attitude. Clara shops in Saks, where the shoe salesmen fuss over her and she can visit the pet boutique, attends the Pug Luck Garden Party to benefit homeless pugs, gets a write-up in the New York Post, and upstages her owner on a book tour by wearing a baseball cap adorned with the name of the book to signings and interviews. As Kaufman writes, The pug and I did share a blind spot. For all our combined knowledge, there was one fact neither of us truly understood. Clara was not a person. This reality makes no difference until Kaufman and her husband decide to adopt a human baby who threatens to push Clara out of the spotlight as the couple's and the book's attention turns to Russia and Nicholas, their new son.
Pug lessons are sometimes poignant. As Kaufman writes of her pugs when she and her husband finally receive their baby, I had spent 20 years caring for small creatures, nurturing them, attending to their every need. And in exchange, they prepared me well. Kaufman's narration remains humorous but also tackles the larger issues involved in creating a family and demonstrating love as she describes life with the dogs she adores as well as her husband and son. Fortunately, Clara and Nicholas demonstrate their own bond. As their proud mother writes of her baby, Among his first words,"Clara."